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Family keeps vigil for comatose Santa Rosa cyclist

Published: Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 2:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 18, 2013 at 11:50 a.m.

Should Tristan Humble wake, the reflections of his friends' and family's love will be all around him in the posters, pictures and personal artifacts that have transformed his hospital room at Kaiser Medical Center in Santa Rosa.

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Tristan Humble

COURTESY PHOTO

Huge, brightly colored origami cranes brought by a friend hang from the ceiling. Someone else left a San Francisco Giants pennant from spring training. Humble's cherished Tottenham Hotspur soccer team is represented by a banner brought by others.

There are flowers, valentines and a guitar standing ready for visitors who know how to play and wish to communicate with Humble through music, one of several languages dear to him.

Very likely, his mother, Teresa, will be there, keeping vigil as she has through most of the days and weeks since the bicycle crash that left her 25-year-old son in a coma.

"The progress is all positive," said Donna Wells, a family friend and one of Tristan Humble's co-workers. "He's just not sitting up in bed talking to us yet. But that's the plan."

Humble, one of four brothers in a tight-knit family raised by Teresa and Strawberry Elementary School Principal Scott Humble, is a lifelong athlete, outdoorsman, skilled cyclist and distance runner.

But Feb. 2, on his first ride over Trinity Road, he drifted across the double yellow line on a downhill curve near Cavedale Road and collided head-on with a Honda minivan, the CHP said.

The Brown University grad was thrown from his bicycle and landed on the pavement, apparently head first, fracturing his skull through his helmet, authorities and family said.

He skinned a knee and broke his glasses, requiring a few stitches in his eyelid, said Scott Humble, former Forestville school superintendent.

But Tristan Humble suffered no other physical injuries besides the brain trauma that holds him prisoner now, though he has in recent weeks begun to breathe on his own and seems to be suffering fewer episodes of extreme pain that his family calls "storms."

While Tristan Humble remains veiled in silence, unable to make contact with his loved ones, family and friends are making constant attempts to reach him, using music, spoken language, including the French in which he is fluent, stimulating colors and an ancient healing art called Jin Shin Jyutsu. They have tried to awaken his senses with strong scents like coffee, mint and orange, as well. They read to him, sing and play recorded music.

Teresa Humble, who works at a local law firm, has not been working since her son got hurt, spending most of her days, and many nights, with him at the hospital.

There are moments, said Scott Humble, where he and his wife observe "hopeful glimmers of recognition and response" -- when Scott, for instance, strums the guitar to a song he taught his son at an earlier time.

Sometimes Tristan's eyes are open and appear to focus, and it seems Tristan is merely stymied by his inability to communicate, Scott Humble said.

But asked at other times to perform a purposeful action -- to, say, blink his eyes twice -- Tristan may respond with what seems to be a meaningful motion but isn't consistent, his dad said.

Scott Humble said he and his wife met a young man who was once in a coma who told them that if Tristan seems to be hearing them, he probably is.

But "it's tough to be so outside," Scott Humble said, "and trying to find ways in."

So that hospital staffers will know something about the man they're treating, the family has posted a note on the door to Tristan Humble's room detailing his many accomplishments and adventures -- from his casting as Marius in "Les Miserables" as a Santa Rosa High School ArtQuest student, to his internship with UNESCO through the State Department while studying at Institut d'Etudes de Sciences Politiques de Paris, to a time picking coffee in Hawaii.

An international studies student at Brown University, he had stints working as a research assistant with the Atlantic Council in Washington and conducting archival research at Stanford's Hoover Institute. He also worked with the Commonwealth Club of California and Brown's Watson Institute for International Studies.

He plays piano, guitar and bass; sang with the high school concert choir and chamber singers; and before his accident worked as a territory sales manager for CPI International, a vendor of scientific testing and monitoring equipment where his language skills are expected to improve outreach to French-speaking countries.

"He's one of the smartest but most down-to-earth people I've ever met," said Wells, who was Tristan's housemate until he moved into a new apartment earlier this year.

While Tristan's oldest brother, Devin Humble, 30, resides locally, brothers Liam, 27, and Austin, 19, live in Los Angeles.

They maintain communication with their brother by phone calls and FaceTime on their iPhones, Scott Humble said.

But "it's really, really tough on them because of being so far away," he said, "and the brothers are very, very close. All four of them."

The two brothers' absence is partially offset by a tremendous outpouring of love and support the family is experiencing, including homecooked meals delivered nightly to their Bennett Valley home, massages for Tristan, and recordings from his days in the choirs at Santa Rosa High School.

Friends have offered to sit spells at the hospital so Teresa and Scott Humble, who recently returned to work, can dine together.

A friend who ran a recent half-marathon in New York City's Central Park wore a shirt emblazoned with her ailing friend's name so that spectators cheering her on would end up rooting for Tristan.

Supporters also helped Teresa and Scott Humble last month when they tackled the task of moving their son out of what Scott Humble called "his first, non-college bachelor pad," knowing that his recovery won't permit that level of independence.

Tristan Humble had lived there just two weeks before his crash.

His family now is praying for their beautiful boy to awaken to all the love that's coming his way, and trying to come to grips with the reality of their situation.

"Even for me," his father said, "even in the midst of it, it is unimaginable."

Funds are being raised to help with Tristan's future care through the Tristan Humble account, Wells Fargo Bank, account No. 5870229605.

Wells also is holding benefit concerts in her home, beginning March 23.

Updates on Tristan Humble's condition and fundraising efforts are available under the title "welovetristanhumble" at CarePages.com.

You can reach Staff WriterMary Callahan at 521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com.

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